Papers and correspondence of Henry Ellis Daniels, 1912-2000

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

There is important documentation of Daniels' mathematical studies at Edinburgh and Cambridge in the form of student notebooks. There are thirteen notebooks which appear to have been used by Daniels at Edinburgh for lecture notes. Members of the academic staff of the University represented by lecture notes include the head of department, E.T. Whittaker, C.G. Darwin, Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy, W.H. McCrea and A. Oppenheimer. As many as twenty notebooks appear to have been used at Cambridge. Members of the academic staff represented include A.S. Eddington, Plumian Professor of Astronomy and mathematics lecturers A.E. Ingham, M.H.A. Newman and A.H. Wilson. Agricultural statistics are represented by notes of H.G. Sanders' lectures on field experimentation with practical examples. There are a small number of caricature sketches (heads in profile) of Daniels' lecturers in the student notebooks and Eddington is one of those represented in this way. There are a further six notebooks which do not appear to be student notebooks though only one is dated 'Lent 1950' when Daniels was a mathematics lecturer at Cambridge.

Research material is presented in an alphabetical sequence by folder or box title. The principal contents of Daniels' research folders are sequences of undated manuscript notes, only occasionally titled but often paginated and kept together with treasury tags; data, in manuscript form or automatically generated; and off-prints and photocopies of published material. Additionally there may be notes in hands other than Daniels' and a little correspondence. Topics include 'bundles' and epidemics and a number of Daniels' folders were identified with the names of colleagues including D.J. Bartholomew and D.R. Cox.

The earliest surviving material relates to the wartime work on navigational problems and postwar Decca Navigator System papers, which were sent to Daniels in 1947, probably relate to this work.

There is extensive material relating to Daniels' lectures and publications. There is a significant record of Daniels' university teaching at Cambridge and Birmingham arranged alphabetically by folder title. Course topics include Design of Experiments, Epidemics, Mechanics and Multivariate Analysis. The documentation may include Daniels' manuscript lecture notes, lists of students taking the courses, examples and problem sheets, and related material from colleagues. Daniels' annotation of his lecture notes gives some indication of how lecture courses were adapted over time. There is a shorter sequence of lecture course material arranged alphabetically by colleague. Amongst those represented are F.J. Anscombe, M.S. Bartlett, E.L. Lehmann and D. Williams. There is a good record of Daniels' seminar and conference papers for the last ten years of his life, 1990-2000. The documentation is principally transparencies and manuscript notes. For conferences in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1990 and Ascona, Switzerland, in 1995 and 2000 there is also correspondence arranging Daniels' participation in the meeting. Daniels' publications are represented by his bibliography and a good set of off-prints, 1932-2000.

Daniels' correspondence is not extensive. It is predominantly the contents of a single folder, covering the period 1992-1999. The correspondence is largely scientific and includes photocopies and manuscript drafts of Daniels' replies.

Administrative / Biographical History

Daniels was born in London on 2 October 1912. He was educated at the Sciennes School, Edinburgh and George Heriot's School, Edinburgh, obtaining a scholarship to read mathematics at Edinburgh University where he graduated MA in 1933. With the encouragement of the head of department, E.T. Whittaker, he went for a further period of study at Cambridge University, winning a Major Mathematical Scholarship to Clare College. Amongst his Cambridge studies he took a course in statistics with practical exercises which was provided by the School of Agriculture. In 1935 he was appointed Statistician at the Wool Research Industries Association, Leeds to study mathematical and statistical aspects of the wool industries. Skeins of wool are bundles of fibres and the mathematical theory of 'fibre bundles' was one that Daniels returned to again and again in his career. One of Daniels' colleagues at Leeds was the biochemist A.J.P. Martin who, with R.L.M. Synge, was working on the development of paper chromatography for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1952. Daniels contributed a mathematical appendix to their key paper giving a quantitative explanation of why the method works.

During the Second World War Daniels was seconded to the Air Warfare Analysis Group in the Ministry of Aircraft Production to work on improvements in radiolocation. This work led in due course to a major paper on position finding in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. In 1947 he returned to Cambridge as Lecturer in Mathematics attached to the newly formed Statistical Laboratory which offered a postgraduate Diploma in Statistics. Here he played a crucial role in the formation of the Laboratory's many impressive students but became very critical of the University's treatment of his subject, there being no professor and none of the academic staff held college fellowships. In 1957 Birmingham University established a Chair in Mathematical Statistics and Daniels was invited to apply. Here he spent 21 years, retiring from the Chair in 1978 when he returned to Cambridge to continue research in association with the Statistical Laboratory. Amongst his statistical work at Birmingham was a close research relationship with J.C. Squire, a leading member of the medical faculty. Daniels' research was characterised by his deployment of classical mathematical techniques to solve very difficult probabilistic problems arising from scientific issues.

Daniels' distinction in mathematical statistics was recognised by his colleagues and the wider scientific community. In 1974-1975 he served as President of the Royal Statistical Society which awarded him its Guy Medal in silver in 1957 and in gold in 1984. In 1985 he was elected an honorary fellow of the International Statistical Institute. He was elected FRS in 1980. Daniels died on 16 April 2000.


By section as follows: Notebooks, Research, Lectures and publications, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to holders of full Reader's Tickets for Cambridge University Library.

Acquisition Information

The papers were received from Mrs Barbara Daniels, widow, in June 2001. Placed in Cambridge University Library 2002.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Henry Ellis Daniels: NCUACS catalogue no.109/8/02, 54 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.